From the water we drink to the air we breathe, the abundance of toxins in our environment is overwhelming. We all need to take the time to become more aware of how the things we consume affect us, and that is exactly the mission of National Poison Prevention Week. This is an opportunity to highlight the dangers toxins pose for people of all ages and allow for community involvement in poison prevention. Heightened awareness now may lead to better health and safety in the long run.
Toxins in the Water
Access to clean water is a basic human necessity but, unfortunately, is not always attainable. According to the Water Project, 783 million people do not have access to clean water. Although many agencies work diligently to rectify the issue, people from sub-Saharan Africa all the way to Flint, Michigan still struggle to find clean water. Certain water sources, like saltwater, are naturally inconsumable, but many viable freshwater sources are greatly affected by contamination. The EPA breaks these contaminants down into four categories: physical, chemical, biological and radiological.
According to a study by Yuhei Inamordi of the National Institute of Environmental Studies, water sources contaminated by physical pollutants such as soil, sediment and other organic material may change the color, odor and pH of water, but generally will not harm human health. However, the presence of trash and other human debris that does not naturally degrade or decompose in water can lead to health issues as they deposit chemicals into water sources.
Similarly, the result of organisms like bacteria, viruses, protozoans and parasites existing in a water supply, known as biological water contamination, can render water not only unusable, but dangerous. Animal waste and agricultural runoff, as well as on-site septic systems can cause bacteria to wash into drinking water supplies. Even more, standard operating procedures at nuclear facilities can still release radiation into the environment where radiological pollution can greatly affect human cell, tissue and DNA function. According to Riverkeeper, a New York-based clean water advocate, nuclear reactors routinely emit low levels of liquid radioactivity in the form of more than 100 different isotopes.
Evaluating Chemical Pollution of Water
Though each of the above scenarios is possible and well deserves attention and reflection, following recent water crises such as Flint, Michigan, the issue of chemical pollution is seemingly on everyone’s mind. Chemical water pollution can be very dangerous and lead to severe health problems. The presence of lead, asbestos, and pesticides have been directly linked to cancer and health defects in humans. Lead and asbestos have both been known to enter drinking water supplies through service pipes, where high water acidity levels and low mineral content causes them to corrode. Health implications stemming from lead exposure include reproductive problems, slowed growth and lower IQ in children, and development complications for pregnant women and their babies. Asbestos exposure has been linked linked exclusively to the aggressive cancer mesothelioma, one that results in a poor prognosis for many.
How to Remain Diligent
The CDC offers several tips to purify your water when a clean source is unavailable, including several techniques and processes:
- Boiling: Boiling water is a surefire way to kill biological contaminants
- Disinfectants: Can kill most disease-causing viruses and bacteria, but not as effective against resistant strains
- Filters: Many filters can remove disease-causing parasites, as well as physical contaminants found in tap water
While not all communities have access to clean water, there are many government and non-governmental organizations working extensively to provide clean water to those in need. Haws offers hygienic drinking fountains, electric water coolers, and Hydration By Haws™ hands-free activation bottle fillers. These water systems transform regular tap water into filtered drinking water by using a certified advanced filtration system and are lead-free by all known standards.
Although 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, only one percent of the world’s supply is drinkable. Unfortunately, certain types of pollution cannot be remedied, but being aware of warnings and the water quality in your locality can help reduce your risk of waterborne illness. Make Poison Prevention Week from March 18-24 the catalyst you need to evaluate your drinking water and think about the safety of the water you consume daily.